JUDGE ME (working in progress)
JUDGE ME is the second project under the concept "performative event". It will reference an actual court trial as a framework to discuss the dilemma of artists regarding their value in neoliberal society. Instead of keeping the discussion within the art field, this project will invite people from other occupations to "JUDGE" artists’ value. What is the role and position of artist in society today? Do artists have important value to society? How artists' works are valued in today? The purpose is neither to defend nor accuse the artist, but to put artists’ value and their position in discussion and reflection through a wider scope of society.
I will be both the prosecutor and defendant, the witness will be 8 people from other professions than art from the community where the performance will take place, the jury will be the audience. The full court trial will be live-streamed. Parallel to the performance, a video installation will be displayed.
The premiere is coming at Meteor Festival in Bergen Norway, October 2021.
Co-production of: BIT Teatergarasjen, Bergen Center of Electronic Art.
Supported by Art Council of Norway, The Audio and Visual Fund, Bergen Municipality.
This idea starts with the paradox that occurs when reflecting on my value as an artist in society. Every time I introduce myself to people as an artist, the mysterious look in people’s eyes reflect the aura and myths they put around me. The artist’s identity reflects the rosy dream of people from other professions: freedom, self-realization, spiritual wealth, and creativity. At the same time, many people maintain the annoyingly rational idea that artists are expected to be poor and willingly so because their high spiritual satisfaction makes them care less about material life. Therefore, their children are better off not becoming artists unless they come from a wealthy family.
Truly, I, like many other artists, constantly bear underpaid and unstable income due to the artist's irregular working pattern. Furthermore, the economic situation also imposes an intensive mental judgment about my inner value.
Karl Marx explicitly argued that capital is a process that puts into motion all the other dimensions of modern economic, political, social, and cultural life. It creates the wage system, influences values, goals, and the ethics of individuals. It transforms our relation to nature, to ourselves, and to our community, and constantly seeks to mold state imperatives until they are in harmony with its own. In today’s world where independence is worshipped as one of the most important values and economic independence is believed to be the foundation of all independence, ironically most people sacrifice independent thinking to gain economic independence, while most independent artists struggle with economic independence because of their independent thinking and creativity. The capacity of creating and self-expression still can’t erase my doubt, forcing myself to ask again and again: Am I valuable? Is art valuable to society? What is the value of my work, and how is it judged in society?
In recent years, more and more countries cut public funding for art and artists. They believe that art and artists should sustain themselves and not be dependent on public funding. This is partly due to the lack of understanding of art and artists' value by people who are not art professionals or art fans. However, it should also raise important questions to art professionals: If art through the course of history used to be the media to transmit the divine spirit before the renaissance, the pioneer to lead the vision of society in modern time, what is the position of art in society today? What makes contemporary art hard to be accessed by the general public so it rather becomes an elite’s game? Is the current vocabulary and system of contemporary art compatible with the dynamics of contemporary society? What is the role and position of artists in the future where technology is the main force of development of the society?
Instead of discussing these questions within the art field, I feel it is necessary to open the door to wider society, to let art professionals hear from the outside world, and let society look into the complexity of artists’ work and life behind the myths. Since feelings of being judged have constantly haunted me, I call for a court trial and invite people from other professions to judge me face to face.
Concept, director, curating and text: Jingyi Wang
Stage and light design: Leo Preston
Artworks by: Håkon Holm Olsen, Helene Norseth, Nina Bang Larsen, Lona Hansen, Gabriel Johann Kvendseth, Sarah Jost, Lasse Årikstad.
Video art : Yafei Qi
Live camera: Elias Björn.
Programmer: Robert Fohlin.
Co-production: BIT Teatergarasjen, Kunsthall 3,14
Venue: Kunsthall 3.14, Bergen, Norway
Dates: Nov.17th - Dec.11th, 2016
Funding body: Art Council of Norway, Bergen Municipality, Fond for Lyd org Bilde (Fund for image and sound)